Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My hero / Les Murray by Daljit Nagra

Les Murray
Photograph by Adam Hollingworth

My hero: Les Murray

'His poetry celebrates sprawling beyond conventional boundaries'

Daljit Nagra
Friday 2 September 2011 22.55 BST

t may not be obviously apparent, but the Usain Bolt of modern poetry is surely the great Australian poet Les Murray. I love those speedy, powerful lines that can run on for several verses without the tedium of punctuationAs a connoisseur of lively rock music, I look for something similar in poetry, and Murray's comes closest to that raw, hard-edged experience.

I frequently dip into Murray's rough cuts to gain inspiration for my own poems. His poetry celebrates sprawling beyond conventional boundaries: "we are a colloquial nation / most colloquial when serious". His style is rarely formal, and its music is best understood when heard in performance: Murray rattles along in an intimate voice that's strangely devoid of modulation, with energy-release presiding over pedantic sense.

My favourite Murray moments are those where his pace is loaded with a baroque linguistic excess. This reinforces the illusion of someone thinking fast on their feet. He regards a bed as a "Pleasure-craft of the sprung rhythms", a bulldozer "stands short as a boot on its heel-high ripple soles", a shirt is "soaking in salt birth-sheen".
I don't share Murray's Catholicism, but I do admire his conviction; most of his collections are dedicated "To the glory of God". In a poem that addresses his dead father, he writes: "Snobs mind us off religion / nowadays, if they can. / Fuck them. I wish you God." I admire my poetry heroes on the basis of their work rather thananything else. As a result I've learned little about Murray's life. But I was fortunate to meet the great man at the Rotterdam International Poetry festival this spring, and I soon came to admire his warmth, openness and especially his quick wit: over breakfast one morning, the conversation turned to languages and I asked Murray what languages he'd learnt at school. He scoffed: "Languages? Where I come from it was considered an achievement to have a roof in yer mouth!"
Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy Machine!!! by Daljit Nagra is published by Faber.






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